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BREWSTER — Hugh Fisher (Vanderbilt) had only given up a single. There was one out in the fifth inning and Chatham was still within reach, down 2-0. But the A’s defense, like it had done most of Friday night, let him down.
Brewster’s Gage Workman darted to second as a ball rolled out of Brady Smith’s (Florida) mitt. Smith slung the ball to second, but it trickled into the outfield grass, moving Workman to third. “I tried to make a play on it and it didn’t work out,” Smith said post game. In the next at-bat, Fisher induced a sharp ground ball to third. Jorge Arenas (Stetson) tried to backhand it, but it skipped past him and Workman scored.
Back-to-back mishaps, and a run to show for it.
A season-high four defensive errors from Chatham jump started a Brewster offense that was stagnant through its first time around the order. Six of Brewster’s nine runs came between the fourth and sixth inning. Three of those six runs were handed to the Whitecaps by A’s errors. And while the Anglers (19-12-2) ripped seven hits in the game, they were unable to remedy their shaky defense, bringing home just one run in the 9-1 loss to Brewster (14-18-1).
“When you don’t play the game clean, you should get your butt beat,” manager Tom Holliday said.
The message postgame dealt with body language. Arenas said it needs to be better. Holliday wanted to see more pride in his players. And Smith said there was a lack of it throughout.
“Not giving 100%, putting our heads down,” Smith said, trying to decipher the A’s body language on Friday. “Just showing with your body that you don’t want to be here. We came up flat today and it showed.”
The mistakes started in the first inning. After two easy outs from starting pitcher Daniel Federman (Miami), a possible third and final one came from a slow roller to second. Anthony Vilar (Miami) couldn’t handle a high bounce and struggled to grasp the ball after gaining control.
The Anglers offense started the game with back-to-back innings with runners on the corners and two outs. But both times, they couldn’t capitalize. A first inning Alex Toral (Miami) strikeout was followed by a caught stealing from his college teammate, Vilar, to end the next top half. When Kaden Polcovich (Oklahoma State) led off the third with a single, he walked to the dugout a couple of pitches later after getting swiped at second, too.
Two pitches into Federman’s fourth inning of work, a ball curled down the third base line and stopped in front of the left field foul pole. After the ground-rule double, T.J. Collett lifted his first pitch of the at-bat toward left field, banging it off the fence and plating the Whitecaps first run of the game. A bloop single — the second of the day — also got Collett home before the ball dropped in right field.
“After Federman, we made pitching almost impossible,” Holliday said.
Fisher came in relief, and after allowing the unearned run off two errors, the lefty still had two runners in scoring position with one out. The infield went in, and Collett, already with an RBI, bounced a ground ball through a hole in the diamond. In two winnings, the Whitecaps had turned a pitching duel into a 5-0 lead.
The next inning, Jack Owen (Auburn) had retired the first two batters before line drive shot down the third base line. Arenas gloved it, but the ball popped out and into the left field grandstand for a free two bases. The second hole hitter, Workman, ripped a single to right to send home another run.
“I’m never going to miss a ball like that and it goes in my glove like that,” Arenas said. “If I’m going to make an error, it’s going to be in a different way.”
Arenas, who had two errors against the Whitecaps, said the shadows and backdrop at third base gave him trouble.
“Some reason it was dark back here, but it was hard to see the bat from there,” he said.
Holliday made defensive replacements at first and second, notably Hueston Morrill (Oklahoma State) who took away two hits and limited even more offensive production from the Whitecaps. But Brewster had already mustered a 6-1 lead.
Dawson Merryman (Texas), the fifth pitcher of the game for the A’s, had two runners in scoring position with two outs. Workman knocked a high fly ball to left and Tyler Doanes (West Virginia), a defensive replacement for Hall, ran back, looking over his shoulder. But he couldn’t find the ball, handing Brewster two more runs.
“We misjudged fly balls in the outfield with guys not playing in the outfield very often,” Holliday said. “That’s on me, I get that.”
Holliday emptied his bench, leaving just one hitter (Keaton Rice) out of the game. But Chatham’s offense couldn’t formulate any success to close out the game, even with the fresh hitters. It’s defensive miscues had already decided the outcome.
“I don’t like excuses," Arenas said, “But that can’t happen.”